Preserved Monster Lore for D&D

Just had the content you paid for taken from you without warning or recourse? Here's some handy quick monster lore you can use to help when roleplaying these evil monsters.


A beholder constantly fears for its safety, is wary of any creature that isn’t one of its minions, and is aggressive in dealing with perceived threats. It might react favorably toward creatures that humble themselves before it and present themselves as inferiors, but is easily provoked to attack creatures that brag about their accomplishments or claim to be mighty. Such creatures are seen as threats or fools, and are dealt with mercilessly. Each beholder thinks it is the epitome of its race, and therefore all other beholders are inferior to it — even though, at the same time, it considers other beholders to be its greatest rivals. A beholder might be willing to cooperate with adventurers who have news about another beholder’s lair or activities, and might be nonhostile toward adventurers who praise it for being a perfect example of a beholder.

Fire Giants

Fire giants on many occasions have ransomed captives back to their families or communities, once the giants determined that a slave had no particular talent they needed and others were willing to pay for its return. Affluent prisoners such as merchants and aristocrats are the most likely to win this sort of reprieve, for obvious reasons. The ransom demanded rarely involves baubles such as gold or gems: fire giants prefer payment in mithral, adamantine, or different slaves (ones with more useful talents or stronger backs).


Gnolls have little variation in personality and outlook. They are collectively an elemental force, driven by a demon lord to spread death and destruction. The only real opportunity for interaction with gnolls is provided by the cultists that sometimes accompany a war band. This humanoid rabble might have information the characters need or could even be former friends corrupted to the worship of Yeenoghu. To portray a gnoll that is more intelligent or social than the usual, you can give it characteristics similar to Yeenoghu cultists.


A kobold acknowledges its weakness in the face of a hostile world. It knows it is puny, bigger creatures will exploit it, it will probably die at a young age, and its life will be full of toil. Although this outlook seems bleak, a kobold finds satisfaction in its work, the survival of its tribe, and the knowledge that it shares a heritage with the mightiest of dragons. A kobold isn’t clever, but it isn’t as stupid as an orc. Someone can fool a kobold with smooth words or a quick wit, but when the kobold figures out it has been tricked, it remembers the affront. If it gets an opportunity to do so, it will retaliate against that person somehow, even if in merely a petty way. A kobold doesn’t like being cornered or alone. It wants to know it has a safe path for escape, or at least an ally nearby to improve its chances. A kobold without either of these options will be nervous, its behavior alternating between meek silence and hysteria.

Mind Flayers

Mind flayers are inhuman monsters that typically exist as part of a collective colony mind. Yet illithids aren’t drones to an elder brain. Each has a brilliant mind, personality, and motivations of its own.


With their culturally ingrained tendency to bow before superior strength, orcs can be subjugated by a powerful and charismatic individual. Evil human spellcasters and rulers in particular have a penchant for enslaving or deceiving orcs into service. A leader backed by a great military force could swoop down upon a tribe, kill its leaders, and cow the rest of the orcs into submission. A spellcaster typically takes a more devious approach, using magic to conjure up false omens that strike fear into the tribe and make it obedient. A wizard might manipulate a few of the orcs that rank just below the war chief, using them as pawns to help overthrow the leader. The wizard validates the change in command with signs supposedly delivered by the gods (which are in truth nothing but a few well-cast illusions), and turns the tribe into a strike force eager to do the bidding of its new chief. The survivors of a tribe scattered by defeat sometimes fall back on their fighting skills to find employment, individually or in small groups, with whoever is willing to hire them. These mercenaries, while they might pride themselves on their seeming independence, nevertheless strive to follow through on their end of a bargain, because being paid by one’s employer is better than being hunted down for breaking a deal.

Roleplaying an Orc

Most orcs have been indoctrinated into a life of destruction and slaughter. But unlike creatures who by their very nature are evil, such as gnolls, it’s possible that an orc, if raised outside its culture, could develop a limited capacity for empathy, love, and compassion. No matter how domesticated an orc might seem, its blood lust flows just beneath the surface. With its instinctive love of battle and its desire to prove its strength, an orc trying to live within the confines of civilization is faced with a difficult task.

Half Orcs

The lore of humans depicts orcs as rapacious fiends, intent on coupling with other humanoids to spread their seed far and wide. In truth, orcs mate with non-orcs only when they think such a match will strengthen the tribe. When orcs encounter human who match them in prowess and ferocity, they sometimes strike an alliance that is sealed by mingling the bloodlines of the two groups. A half-orc in an orc tribe is often just as strong as a full-blooded orc and also displays superior cunning. Thus, half-orcs are capable of gaining status in the tribe more quickly than their fellows, and it isn’t unusual for a half-orc to rise to leadership of a tribe.


Yuan-ti are emotionless, yet feel completely superior to humanoids, in the same way that a human can feel superior to chickens or rabbits — in a matter-of-fact, completely objective way that doesn’t brook any second-guessing. To a yuan-ti, there are only three categories of creature: threat, yuan-ti, or meat. Threats are powerful creatures such as demons, dragons, and genies. Yuan-ti are any of their own kind, regardless of caste; although a rival yuan-ti might be dangerous, and a weak or dead one might be potential food, it is first and foremost one of the true people and deserving of some respect. Meat includes any creature that is neither a threat nor a yuan-ti, possibly useful for a base purpose but not worthy of other consideration. Most yuan-ti consider it beneath themselves to speak to meat. Abominations and malisons rarely communicate directly with slaves except in emergencies (such as for giving battle orders); at other times, slaves are expected to constantly be aware of the master’s mood, anticipate the master’s needs, and recognize subtle gestures of hands, head, and tail that indicate commands. Only purebloods — which walk among humanoids and therefore have to learn how to speak to them civilly — practice interacting with meat-creatures. Much of their training involves suppressing their innate annoyance at having to speak to lesser beings as though they were equals, or being obliged to kowtow to a humanoid ruler as if the pureblood were merely an advisor. Pureblood spies feel a sort of aloof contempt toward meat-creatures, but they can affect a pleasant tone, and speak to such creatures with a silver tongue that disguises their true feelings. Under normal circumstances, yuan-ti are always calmly deferential to those of higher rank. They tend to be curt and formal with those of lower rank, for the differences between them aren’t a source of anger or disgust (emotions that the yuan-ti don’t feel anyway), merely a fact of the natural order, and their culture long ago realized that treating the lower castes with a measure of detached respect prevents rebellion and advances the cause of the entire race.

Cannibalism and Sacrifice

The ritual that produced the first yuan-ti required the human subjects to butcher and eat their human slaves and prisoners. This act of cannibalism had several ramifications. It broke a long-standing taboo among civilized humanoids and set the yuan-ti apart from other civilizations as creatures not beholden to moral values. It corrupted their flesh, making the yuan-ti receptive to dark magic. It emulated the dispassionate viewpoint of the reptilian mind, a trait the yuan-ti admired. Today, cannibalism is practiced by the most fervent of yuan-ti cultists, including those who aspire to transform into yuan-ti themselves. In yuan-ti cities, the activity persists in the form of human sacrifice — not strictly cannibalism anymore, but still serving as a repudiation of what it is to be human and a glorification of what it is to be yuan-ti. Yuan-ti don’t have a taboo against eating their own kind; a starving yuan-ti would kill and eat a lesser without a second thought, and a group of them would choose the weakest among them to be killed and eaten. Under normal circumstances, however, they bury or cremate their dead rather than eating them, but a great hero or someone of status might be ritually consumed as a form of tribute.

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